The Sage Meets The Seductress

I can still hear my husband(in my head) cautioning me on the title of this post, he thinks it is contentious for such a blog. Well, I answered him, saying, “This is not a made-up story; in fact, I borrowed it from the great epic Mahabharatam. So how can this title be controversial?” He is my in-house editor, you see! ūüôā

But you know what? I think for our early ancestors, no topic of human need was either discountenanced or controversial. Every basic human need was explored carefully before they declared that indulgence in any NEED beyond the BALANCE point could turn even something pleasurable into a painful experience.

The real seekers don’t care about being judged. Neither do they deny themselves nor shy away from any basic need. Be that be sex, hunger or thirst.

Mahabharata itself is replete with instances of great men trying to keep them safe when the fire of need aroused. Just off the top of my head, I do remember reading 2 stories on sage Viswamitra willing to steal Dog’s meat to keep himself alive and Guru Ashtavakra being seduced by a beautiful woman.

Now did they mention these stories to belittle them? No. It was put there for all of us see that they were just like us, battling the same emotions and yet striking a balance.

Those snippets from their lives had encouraged many to achieve that BALANCE by looking into the eye of any distraction that came their way. By doing that they understood¬†that pair of opposites/dualities/Dvandas can all be transcended because they are just so trivial and momentary compared to their own self. And that is why, Bhagavat Gita says “Dvandva-Atitah”, meaning Transcend the Dualities(4,22) and you will stay put in Yoga.

yadrccha-labha-santusto
dvandvatito vimatsarah
samah siddhav asiddhau ca
krtvapi na nibadhyate//

He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady both in success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.

Now, this is why I am so much in love with the Vedic literature.  It explores every aspect of human personality and looks at none with disgust. You have to learn to look everything with the same eye to keep your mind in place. And that comes with the knowledge of things that can draw you away from your own self. Else the mind will take you wherever it goes and you will have to partake in its guilt and pain.

So here it is, the story shared by Bhishma to Yudishtra about the Sage Ashtavakra meeting the Seductress Uttara.

Ashtavakra decides to marry Suprabha, daughter of the sage Vadanya. He conveyes his desire to Vadanya, who decides to test Ashtavakra.

Vadanya then asks Ashtavakra to proceed north to Kailash, greet Shiva and Parvati, and then go further north to visit the abode of the damsels, stirajya, and to speak with their ruler, Uttara. On the return, Vadanya promises to marry his daughter to Ashtavakra.

Ashtavakra sets forth and reaches the Himalayas, there he meets the King Kuber. He stays there for a year, watching the dance of the apsaras, and Kuber was both surprised by this Sage’s unusual behaviour and was equally happy to serve him.

Almost after a year with Kuber, he decides to continue his journer after meeting Lord Shiva. Atlast he reaches his destination and is greeted with seven beautiful women. He couldn’t but admire those beautiful beings but then takes control and asks for Uttara.

Uttara welcomes him and she tries her best to engage him in discussion revolving around love and erotica. Ashtavakra then prepares to leave but she begs him to stay back and marry her. Ashtavakra declines her offer but she tries in every way to seduce him. 

Ashtavakra then tells her of his conversation with Vadanya and how he is in love with Suprabha. Uttara then admits that she was asked to test his resolve by Vadanya. He takes her leave and then marries the lady he loved.

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Is Attachment Unhealthy?

Naiva Kincit Karomiti Yukto Manyeta Tattva-vit

The human body is home to trillions of bacteria and viruses but they aren’t harmful until they find the right breeding ground. In the same way, the concept of attachment is already embedded in our system, waiting for the right time to develop.

For it to develop, it doesn’t need¬†a human on the other end. It can be your smart phone or an operating system, like the movie ‘HER’.¬†Watch it if you haven’t. Maybe our future gen is heading there.

Alright, so what is the problem with ‘attachment’?

Side effects are the problem. To name a few Рpossessiveness, controlling, sorrow, aversion, frustration, anger, hatred etc.

Some say what the heck, attachment makes life worth living. Few say attachment is the root cause of all our miseries. Others say it is impossible to live without it. Whatever is the thought process, we still do not have an antidote for the adverse effects.

Besides, the scriptures are not talking about attachment towards a person, in particular, but are addressing us to stop clinging to our beliefs, ideas, identities & thoughts.

We can make an argument that those very identities drives us and how are we to be without them? I agree.  All that we need to do is to realize that whatever drives the body is not us but are just a series of memories. This understanding will slowly weaken the attachments we have towards them.

Why do we have to do this?

If you truly understand whatever you have here is been loaned to you for a period of time including your body, would you not live with that knowledge. Or would you prefer living in willful ignorance?

I know it is easier said than done because we do not even realize. This is how I practice. Starting from my body to the people I live with – I am always thankful that I¬†have them and they help me experience this world but¬†I remind myself that they are there ‘now’ and that they have a life too.

Whatever I do, I engage in it with total involvement and that is when I enjoy the role I play. Just like how we play a video game, we know that it is neither us nor ours but we still give everything to that.

I am still in the process but I am convinced that everything I thought I was is not me. When they(mind, body, identity, roles) are not me, the things or people that come along cannot be mine either.

By doing every activity with this knowledge of who is doing, makes me more human. Giving credit where it’s due, for example – Mind is thinking, Sumi is working etc ;). It may sound funny but if you think about it, you would realize that it is true.

And if you practice, it will make things easier for you and for others living with you. The whole thing would make you more inclusive, happy, livable, prepared and mindful. Try it but always start with self-study.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita:

Kayena manasa buddhya kevalair indriyair api
Yoginah karma kurvanti sangam tyaktvatma-suddhaye//

The yogis, like all of us, perform their duties with the help of the senses, body, mind and the intelligence but only for the purpose of purification and not for attachment.

Naiva kincit karomiti yukto manyeta tattva-vit
pasyan srnvan sprsan jighrann asnan gacchan svapan svasan//
Pralapan visrjan grhnann unmisan nimisann api
indriyanindriyarthesu vartanta iti dharayan//

‘I do nothing at all.’ thus should be the knower of Reality.
In YOGA, contemplate, even while sleeping, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing, speaking aloud, eliminating, receiving, opening the eyes, closing the eyes, the knower of Reality understands that the senses are operating in the realm of the object of the senses.

 

 

 

Faith Paves Way To Grace

ShraddhńĀvńĀn labhate¬†j√ĪńĀnaŠĻĀ tat-paraŠł• sanyatendriyaŠł•
J√ĪńĀnaŠĻĀ labdhvńĀ parńĀŠĻĀ ŇõhńĀntim achireŠĻáńĀdhigachchhati //
                                                                     Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Shl 39

Those whose faith is deep and who have practised controlling their mind and senses attain divine knowledge. Through such transcendental knowledge, they quickly attain everlasting supreme peace.

Multiple verses were dedicated praising the virtues of ‘Shraddha’ or ‘Faith’ in Bhagavad Gita. Gita¬†firmly states that faith is a precondition towards knowledge and with knowledge comes peace.

Although faith is the very essence of our being, we very often lay it in things which are transient in nature and expect it to work wonders. When that fails, we turn bitter, lose faith in man and in truth. The problem, however, is that we lack faith in oneself and hence we feel incomplete and look towards someone else to complete us. As someone rightly said, The most intimate relationship we will ever have in our entire lifetime is with ourselves and therefore self-faith is crucial. And self-faith is the offspring of self-knowledge.

Then, why wouldn’t we try? Perhaps, it challenges us to explore beyond our beliefs and fears into something unknown to us or maybe, we wrongly believe that like¬†all other challenges, it would be demanding. Or seeking faith may not figure high on our list of priorities or worse, the feeling that,”It is not for me”ūüė∂. ¬†Whatever the reason, the fact remains that all scriptures, including the¬†Gita, were enlightening us¬†on¬†literally the same questions which exercise humans, even¬†today. So, it is for every human being and if applied, produces same results to a yogi¬†and to an ignorant one.

Of course, we cannot discern all spiritual truths straight away; some of them can only be experienced after having attained sufficient advancement on the path. If we only accept what we can presently comprehend, we will be deprived of the higher spiritual secrets. In such conditions, faith helps us to accept what we cannot perceive at present.

Sattvanurupa sarvasya sraddha bhavati bharata
Sraddha-mayo yam puruso yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah//
                                                                        Bhagavad Gita Chapter 17 Shl 3

The faith of all humans conforms to the nature of their mind. All people possess faith, and whatever the nature of their faith, that is verily what they are.

Clearly, blind faith isn’t what we are looking for. According to Gita, our quality of faith will determine the direction of our lives.¬†Our scriptures talk of Uddava, a¬†friend of Krishna, his faith was reposed in Krishna with unquestioning obedience but wasn’t steady as he was confused with the conduct of Krishna. Uddava never understood Krishna’s behaviour but never questioned and he waited till Krishna announced his departure. That’s when it struck him that he is going to be alone and his friend and guru, although, unpredictable will no longer be there to guide him. Someone else’s faith, unquestioned & owned like Uddava, will never stand the stress of life.

Rather, a faith born in clear mind through understanding stays reliable. That will allow us to surrender and help us in understanding the relationship between oneself and the truth through which we came into existence. Such faith will only pave the way to grace- a direct experience of the truth.

So, it’s never too late to know oneself and moreover, many of us use this time before the New Year to set goals and I hope we could add this to the list of resolutions to be followed.

Welcome the New Year with new hopes and do have a blessed year full of peace ūüôā